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By Stephen Pennell

It was 6.57pm on Friday night and I was frantically working out how to book the livestream performance of The Clause from The Mill in Digbeth before it started at 7. I think they’re Britain’s most exciting young band and despite the gig being sans crowd, a fiver looked like a bargain, especially with overpass supporting. The couple of keywords I typed into google opened the door to a Facebook page where I read Clause guitarist Liam Deakin commenting on the gig. Damn - I was 24 hours late! Don’t worry, the Kingshurst axe-man assured me in the comments, saying that if I bought the link, I could watch to my heart’s content for the rest of the next week. Panic over, I did the necessary and settled down to watch overpass open the show, quickly wising up to their huge potential. Taking the stage minus drummer Joe Gallagher, who I later found out was watching from the Mill’s balcony. they proceeded to treat us to a half-hour set of well-crafted, lyrically sophisticated songs. There’s nowhere to hide in an acoustic session with no live audience - the songs have to stand on their own two feet, and overpass’s undoubtedly did. Max Newbold led the way on vocals and acoustic, building on the foundations laid by India Armstrong’s bass and beautiful embellishments from Elliot Rawlings’ delicately-played lead guitar. There wasn’t a weak spot in the entire set, yet they still finished on a high - closing the show with On Your Own and The Otherside Of Midnight - two originals that are so immediate and familiar I thought they must be covers. They are positively flying up the local indie food-chain, and I can’t wait to see overpass at full-strength, feeding off the energy of a live audience.

Talking of the local food chain, surely The Clause sit within touching distance of the top. Liam and Pearce met at a Jaws gig and now they are up there with them, perfectly poised at the shoulder of Peace, with their gigs as eagerly awaited as those of The Twang. Having watched this stream three times now, I can confidently claim that lockdown has done nothing to shut down the band’s talent for epic riffs, emotive and articulate lyrics, or the imaginative way they use samples and sound effects in their determination to present their art in new, exciting ways. The sound, already meatier than the burgers at Original Patty Men, is beefed up by the guitar of “fifth member” Rob Latimer, and a rhythm section of Niall and Jonny that would have shook the top deck of a 97 going down Digbeth High Street outside. The new songs are so good that Clause classics Shut Me Out and Golden Age were considered surplus to requirements, but don’t worry Clause fans - tunes like Electric, Forever Young and Time Of Our Lives will soon replace them in your affections. The Clause have the swagger, bombast and bravado of the best of Britpop, but it’s their disco danceability and surprising sensitivity that sets them apart. Dodgy lockdown barnets aside, they also look the part, but in an age of style over substance, The Clause have an unfair share of both.

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